Oct 032013

It was heartening to learn that Marciano A. Paynor Jr. has been appointed director general of APEC 2015.  No one could be more knowledgeable and better prepared with the intricacies of hosting a major international event. Paynor has been involved in every APEC meeting since its inception. He has been chief of protocol and head of the Presidential Protocol Office during which he oversaw multiple state visits (both incoming and outgoing).  He is a model foreign service officer, non-partisan and committed to the nation, regardless who is the president. 

President Aquino’s decision to appoint Paynor seems to be a turning point, in what had previously been his tendency to go to his nuclear political family (those who were with him in his presidential campaign slog – classmates, those who served during President Corazon Aquino’s tenure, gun club friends, and Liberal Party supporters). This is of course par for the course among our presidents to reward their supporters with appointments in government. In the case of President Aquino, however, much of this bias was motivated to a great extent by his deep mistrust of anyone outside this immediate circle, and in the case of those who were associated with his predecessor, Gloria Arroyo, with great distaste even if they were competent and honest.  Three years into his term, to his chagrin, he is finding out that some of his appointees have either been proven incompetent or whose integrity have come into question. Although known to be fiercely loyal to his friends, the President it seems has come to realize that he has to look beyond this immediate circle and bring in people with proven competence. In the case of Paynor, who served both Presidents Ramos and Arroyo, this may seem an indication of that pivot.  

The Office of the President and its inexorable demands has historically compelled American presidents to do as I just described.  For example, newly elected Harry Truman and Herbert Hoover, one of his predecessors,  had no love for each other.  Yet, it was Truman who sought him out to head the effort to rebuild war-torn Europe and to help reorganize the operating structure of the president’s office. They later became close personal friends.  John F. Kennedy disliked Dwight Eisenhower intensely and often referred to him with unflattering names as “asshole” and “old fart”. But when the Bay of Pigs disaster happened, he called on Eisenhower to defend him and which the latter duly did.  The former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (a Republican) and Bill Clinton (a Democrat) fiercely opposed each other. Clinton even accused Gingrich of trying to run him out of DC.  Yet when push came to shove, the two were able to compartmentalize their differences and worked out a compromise to pass very important legislation for the sake of the nation. 

George W. Bush, during a luncheon he hosted for all former presidents,  told President Obama: “We want you to succeed….we care deeply for our country…all of us who have served in this office understand that the office transcends the individual.”     

I believe President Aquino’s experience mid-term in his tenure has given him a more sober view of the demands of the presidency and the need to bring in diverse view points and tap outsiders. Hopefully, this may even compel him to seek the advice and support of former President Fidel V. Ramos, who did serve the President’s mother and was eventually anointed, her successor.  FVR’s experience in Mindanao could be of great value to the nation in the aftermath of the Zamboanga affair. During the recent bouts of the crisis with Hong Kong and Taiwan, two cultures where face is as important as the substance, he could have played a role in mending fences. 

In my humble opinion, if President Aquino does seek the counsel of others (not necessarily aligned with him) with great experience and integrity in helping address other issues and challenges, his term will be viewed in history as one of growing into the presidency with maturity and statesmanship. 

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Old legal saying

When I was in law school, a professor “with tongue in cheek” told us: “ If the facts are against you, cite the law and if both the facts and law are against you, pound the table and shout like hell”….and I might add blame someone else.  I would suggest that saying seems to be the mode in our legislature these days.  

Levity aside, the PDAF scandal which I previously categorized as the “tip of the iceberg” continues to unfold in mind-blowing proportions. Allow me to restate what I said in my last column: “We must make sure that the President takes the lead on this. If he does, then we must support him in every way possible. Much is expected of him, because the people universally perceive that he is a sincere and honest public servant. His successful performance will prove that there is a “daang matuwid”.

Regrettably, the more recent revelation of the alleged DAP utilization for the Corona impeachment has become the main concern of the nation. Many fear that it may seriously compromise the integrity of the President. 

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